The Green Bay Packers draft is completed, and the team added 13 players this season who hope to make the team and make an impact as soon as possible. GM Brian Gutekunst attempted to address many of the team’s pressing needs and improve a team that is clearly looking to get younger and add more skill at different positions.
NFL rookies often struggle as they adjust to life in the NFL. The speed of the game and the overall level of play is much higher than college and the playbooks are thicker and the plays more complicated.
But with the Packers being such a young team, especially at certain positions emphasized in the draft, some members of the 2023 Packers draft class will have a chance to contribute significantly as rookies.
Here is a look at the top five Packers draft picks with the best chance to contribute significantly as rookies. The list is a combination of team needs and the NFL readiness of the players selected:
- S Anthony Johnson
Yes, Johnson is a seventh-round pick, but the safety position is wide open as of now with the inconsistent Darnell Savage and Rudy Ford currently listed as starters. Johnson has played cornerback, free safety and slot at Iowa State and is a physical player, something the Packers have lacked at safety in recent seasons.
He has experience on special teams and if he makes the team, will certainly contribute there. He may be able to get reps at safety with a strong training camp as this position remains a major weakness for the Packers.
- K Anders Carlson
Carlson was a sixth-round pick for the Packers and is expected to beat out Parker White for the right to succeed Mason Crosby as the team’s kicker.
If Carlson wins the job, he’ll see a lot of action as a rookie.
Carlson’s brother worked with Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia with the Raiders and Bisaccia is familiar with the team’s new kicker as a result.
“Oh, he was very high on him,” head coach Matt LaFleur said of Bisaccia. “Obviously having a history there with his brother and he’s known him for a while now. So, definitely made a big impact in Anders’ ability to be picked by us. But he’s a talented guy and we’re excited. He’s got a big leg and certainly he’s far from a finished product.”
Carlson is two years removed from a serious injury and will be kicking without a brace this year for the first time since getting hurt. The Packers need him to improve his accuracy and consistency if he is to secure the job.
- Edge Lukas Van Ness
Van Ness is young (21), athletic and talented but he is also very raw. The biggest reason he may make a substantial contribution as a rookie is the questionable status of the team’s top player at edge, Rashan Gary.
Gary is coming off a season-ending knee injury and may not be ready to start the season on time. That leaves an opening for Van Ness to get more reps in training camp, the preseason and probably early in the regular season as well.
Even if Van Ness is the third edge rusher to start the season behind Preston Smith and Kingsley Enagbare, he should see 15-20 plays per game and be a regular contributor on defense.
If Gary is ready to start the season, he is still likely to start off with a lighter than usual workload which will allow Van Ness to get more playing time if he proves he’s ready.
- WR Jayden Reed
The Packers do not have a wide receiver on their current roster with more than one year of NFL experience. That gives second-round pick Jayden Reed a chance to be the team’s starter in the slot with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs currently listed as the starters on the perimeter.
Reed has good speed and is dangerous after the catch. He lacks the size the Packers prefer on the perimeter but is more than big enough to operate successfully out of the slot.
A successful training camp and preseason would give Reed the chance to carve out a clear role on offense as a rookie.
- TE Luke Musgrave
The Packers lost their top receiving tight end (Robert Tonyan) to the Bears in free agency while top blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis remains unsigned.
The Packers will need a receiving tight end and Musgrave is the top candidate to take over. Tight ends usually have big adjustments to make entering the NFL, but Musgrave has the tools and talent to take over as the team’s primary pass catcher at the position this year.
Musgrave runs a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash and has big hands and good size. If he makes a successful adjustment to the pro game Musgrave very well could be the team’s starter by Week 1.
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